What motivated you to prepare for UPSC?
During my graduation I was wondering which career I should opt for; it was not only about the money but also about the impact on the society. I found 2 – 3 sectors that would satisfy my criteria, like social entrepreneurship, civil services or NGOs. Among these I found the civil services to be easiest.
What was the strategy for prelims? How did you prepare?
There are two things, content and tests. You will have the standard books for covering content. 1 book for each subject is there. Then the practical test papers are most important. I prepared for 2 test series. After completion of test papers, the analysis of the test papers took around 2 hours. That analysis is the most important indicator of what I know and what I don’t know. The third aspect is, understanding how you attempt. Since my accuracy was not very high, I preferred to attempt around 90 questions.
How many mock tests did you solve for your prelims?
Mock tests are available on many websites. I usually complete all the tests of one series rather than going for one test of one series and another test from a different one. After each test I would take 2 hours to analyze each test. As an example, for 100 questions, you have 400 options; all the 400 options should be known to me. In case of options that are incorrect I would search for what could be the related questions for that option.
So you focused on your post-test aspect that many students neglect?
Yes. Also, I had separate notes for separate subjects for things that I would tend to forget and would revise them.
That’s a good idea to revise regularly, rather than blanket-revise everything.
Yes, there are some things on which confusions remain. For example, base line inflation. For these kinds of things I would add it to my notes and revise often.
For both prelims and mains, what was the most difficult part and how did you prepare for it?
For prelims, not much was difficult for me, except for some questions on environment that were based on 5 year or 10 year old issues. These can be left out.
For mains the optional was difficult and then the answer writing section.
Did you write a lot of answers for mains?
This time I hadn’t written much, but last time, yes.
What was your optional and why did you choose it?
My subject in graduation was electronic communication, but that was not an optional I could choose, I would have to take up engineering where 50% of the syllabus would be new. So I decided to go with geography, which was completely new, because I find it interesting as it is related to agriculture and plus it was also scoring high in the last few years.
Current affairs as a subject, is usually dreaded by most during preparation. How did you prepare for it for your mains?
In the first year I focused on current affairs. I used to keep 2 hours every day for current affairs preparation and I used to make notes on software. One should read current affairs only to understand how to write answers. From editorials you need to learn to balance your views, both how to criticize and to praise, how to conclude the answers, and what kind of phrases to use. You can use examples from the current affairs in your answers. That is what is helpful. You basics need to be clear for that.
How did you prepare for the interview? What was your strategy?
Here current affairs is the most important part. I devoted 2 to 3 hours daily and followed channels like Rajya Sabha TV and other discussions where current affairs is being followed. Then they can also ask situational questions, for that I discussed in my peer group and comprehensively covered each aspect.
Did you attempt any mock interviews?
Yes, I attempted 4 or 5 mock interviews.
Could you tell us the questions that were asked in the interview, and who was there in the panel?
They asked how my training in the railways was going on and then they asked whether my state is a princely state or not. Then they asked about Hyderabad because it is also a princely state. They asked what the problems were in 1947 regarding the integration of Hyderabad. Then the discussion went to Kashmir because that is also a princely state. I fumbled a bit on Kashmir and could not answer that very well. They asked is I have no interest in the issue. I replied that I could not recollect just then.
Then there were other rounds including HR. They asked 2 to 3 times why I was taking up IAS or IPS. They asked how I would improve the image of police in front of the public if I would be in IPS. They asked how I would compare all the services and what my criteria were.
The Panel was Manoj Soni.
How was your journey of preparation? Did it transform your thinking? What are the changes that you see in yourself?
The first year it was very good. I was reading a lot of new things, and I felt for the first time that I was learning something. It changed how we see the world and what is there. Our ignorance is brought down. I also started taking an interest in almost everything. After 2 years I did feel that there was stagnation because the learning became similar. Now I am more aware about the situations. It has completely transformed how I think about the world. For example I did not know about climate change and how our education system has problems.
Among Covering the syllabus, Planning your studies and Developing critical thinking that everyone talks about, what is most important and why?
Developing critical thinking is the most important part because we can improve not only our planning but also our strategy. The most important part is self evaluation.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
If you know there’s a chance, you are motivated. When you realize that you have the potential and see others around you getting selected, you feel you can also get selected. I formed a group of 2 to 3 people and together we motivated ourselves continuously.
What was your key to success? Name it in five words.
- Answer writing
- Group studies in small groups
What is your message to other aspirants?
Focus on the mains and cover the entire syllabus based on the mains. Focus less on current affairs. First know the basics.
Is there a benefit in starting to prepare early?
No. Finish whatever you are doing with full focus. Finish your graduation and then start. You can’t do justice to either if you’re doing both together.